Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Midnight Magic (2004)

A reluctant magician, his assistant, a princess in a castle, a ghost, an evil count, secret passages and a missing prince are the ingredients of this delicious little book by Avi. The king calls for the magician, Mangus, to help get rid of a ghost that is haunting his young daughter. Mangus' assistant, Fabrizio, helps solve this mystery by exploring the castle, meeting people, and reporting back to his master. Mangus uses his knowledge of human behavior to try and discover the truth behind the ghost before the princess has to marry the evil Count Scarazoni.
This story takes place in medieval Italy and gives the reader a good idea of what life in a big castle was like. The cover and fly leaves of the book are decorated in medieval style illustrations which attracted me to the book. I enjoyed following Fabrizio around the castle, in and out of secret passages, eavesdropping on, and meeting the other residents of the castle. The ending was not a terrific surprise but I loved following the plot to the end.
A combination of historical fiction and mystery, this book would amuse someone looking for a quick read.
My rating for this book: +++

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A house Called Awful End

One of the fun aspects of working in a library is finding things that people have left in their books. I have found IDs, money, notes, and scraps of paper. When I opened this book, an index card fell out. Perfect, I thought, a book mark. Drawn on the card was a face with a dark grimace on it. I hoped it wasn't an omen.
This book by Philip Ardagh is very, very, very similar in style to the wonderful Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. The author takes time out of the story to explain expressions to the reader and at one point, the characters of the story even refer to the page number of the book. Unfortunately, the ratio of explanations to story is much higher and much less charming in this story about Eddie Dickens, a young man who has to leave his home to stay with his crazy aunt and uncle until his parents recover from illness. Eddie has none of the gumption of the Beaudelaire children and is pushed around in this book like a empty soda bottle in the ocean. He is even as transparent and empty as the bottle. One thing I liked about Awful End was the explanations about life in England at the time of Charles Dickens.
This book was written for a younger audience and may be enjoyed by readers who also enjoyed the Snicket books.
My rating for this book: ++

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa (2008)

Is there any bigger pleasure than reading a book that gives you a smile? I had one in my mind the whole time I read this book! As a big fan of the series of books written about Precious Ramotswe that take place in Botswana, I was drawn to this book written by Nicholas Drayson that takes place in Kenya. Mr. Malik is a member of a bird watching club headed by Rose Mbikwa, a woman he admires but he is too shy to approach. He is challenged by a more assertive man to a bird counting contest, the winner of which has the honor of asking Rose to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball. All does not go well for Mr. Malik as events prevent him from getting to the best bird watching places.
I was not able to put this book down as I commiserated with and cheered for Mr. Malik's quest to be Rose's escort.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants a break from books about mean and violent people. If you are a fan of birds, this makes the book even more of a treat.
My rating for this book: +++++

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (2007)

Shame on me! Almost a month since my last post! It was a busy time but I was still able to fit a couple of books in.
Laurie R. King's book introduces a young woman, Mary Russell, who meets Sherlock Holmes (trips over him in fact) and becomes his very able sidekick. This story takes place after the stories in the original books written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes is almost in hiding since his friend, Dr. Watson, has publicized his cases in the papers. Mary is an orphan, living with a grouchy aunt, and studying so she can attend Oxford. He appreciates her quick mind and takes her under his wing and she helps him solve cases.
It is no secret I love Sherlock Holmes stories and to pair him with a young woman is a real pleasure for me. I will keep an eye out for more of King's books.
I recommend this to Sherlock Holmes fans and mystery lovers.
My rating for this book: +++++